Project information

The Skype's the limit!

Social isolation has a profound impact on the long-term health and well-being of older carers, particularly those who are house-bound. We will use skype to open doors to new social and support networks – training a team of advocates to visually connect carers to people who understand their issues.

April 2011 - January 2012

Charity information

Age UK Devon

Age UK Devon logo
  • Need


    Research reinforces the view that many older people are not online because they don’t see the relevance or importance to their lives. Older carers therefore are excluded from the online world of information, financial choice, independence and opportunity. House-bound older carers, particularly those living in rural areas, find it difficult to access support groups or friendship circles within their community, increasing social isolation even further and reducing quality of life


    We are seeking to address both digital exclusion and social exclusion. We will train older people to demonstrate to their peers how skype can be used to ‘meet’ and ‘socialise’ and provide support networks with fellow older carers within their own homes. The trained volunteers will remain in contact via skype and signpost to support services and digital inclusion grants, meeting needs holistically. The project will take a preventative approach, providing a positive solution to social isolation.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Identify, and work with, 24 isolated older carers who would benefit most from using skype


    » Establish a referral pathway from Devon Carers’ Link, doctors surgeries and through the work of our existing Community Advocates
    » Identify an appropriate Skype Advocate to conduct an ‘informal meet’ with the older carer and establish rapport
    » Articulate and clarify the needs of the older carer, and agree a time-frame and format for the one-to-one training
    » Use the ‘story’ of our Age UK Internet Champion of the Year 2011 to communicate how technology can change your life

    Success will be Impact Evaluations from the 25 older carers, demonstrating the ‘distance travelled’ from being a ‘strong resistor’ to a ‘technology enthusiast’

    Aim 2

    Train a cohort of 5 skype advocates, skilled in demonstrating the life-changing benefits of skype


    » Involve our Skype advocates in the structure of the training programme, building on their existing knowledge and experience of delivering IT training
    » Write and deliver a training programme, enabling advocates to tailor the features of skype to needs of the carer and signpost to additional support
    » Each of the 5 skype advocates to train 5 older carers each in utilising skype to renew and develop social contacts
    » Make training package available on Age UK Devon website, facebook page and link to twitter so that other organisations can replicate the training

    Success will be development of a well-received and evaluated, comprehensive training package and 50 downloads of our training pack from our website by carers’ organisations

    Aim 3

    Develop a support network for house-bound carers, to provide an ‘outlet’ for problem-sharing/solving


    » Illustrate the different ways skype can be used to communicate – from instant messaging to face-to-face calls
    » Advocates support older carers to write their own profile, sharing their interests and experiences of being a carer
    » Each five advocates facilitate a ‘video group conference’ to introduce the older carers to each other, encouraging link-ups beyond the initial ‘meet’
    » Adapt and develop our own Digital inclusion well-being measurement tool, drawing on existing definitions and frameworks

    Success will be 24 older carers report an improvement in well-being measures – including emotional resilience and social interaction

    Aim 4

    Ensure carers ‘stick at’ using skype, changing attitudes to the life-changing role of technology


    » Age UK Devon facilitate regular Advice surgeries (including benefits entitlements) via skype and setting a precedent for delivering advice in future
    » Skype advocates ‘check in’ with their nominated older carer, using skype as a means of communication – offering ongoing support from a trusted source
    » Signpost to national campaigns and initiatives that promote digital inclusion – including Race Online 2012 and ‘Give someone their first time’
    » Write and action a local and national media strategy which celebrates the success of the scheme and the ‘good news stories’

    Success will be 75% of older carers who receive the initial training carry on through to the end of the programme. ‘Exit interviews’ for those that stop capture the reasons why

    Aim 5

    Take a holistic, preventative approach, building on expertise and linking to wellbeing services


    » Collate information on all the carers’ support services in the local area – including carers’ health checks and Age UK Devon’s own benefits check
    » Advocates conduct a ‘training needs analysis’ with carers, identifying additional services, capabilities and experiences that technology can enable
    » Produce an Impact Report to facilitate a county-wide roll-out of this service and for other Age UK’s and carers’ organisations to replicate
    » Signpost to the Remploy e-cycle scheme as a means to help people to self-sustain their engagement with technology

    Success will be referrals to partner agencies, the increase in benefits uptake and the extent to which individuals are empowered to seek solutions to self-sustain

  • Impact


    The project will reduce isolation and loneliness and subsequently improve mental well-being – as demonstrated by an improvement in 4 determinants of well-being: enhancing control, increasing emotional resilience, facilitating participation, promoting social inclusion. We will use questionnaires (before and after) and informal interviews with participants / agencies. We will focus on the extent to which technology has been an enabler of well-being and the sustainability of the support networks.


    There’s a risk of inappropriate referrals, in that older carers don’t have their own computer or broadband access. We will target our publicity and signpost to ‘grants’, through Age UK and Race Online. We will use demonstration kit and have a small fund for adapted equipment. There’s a further risk that carers will drop out, which is why we will focus on retention and the importance of building ‘supportive rapport’ with the volunteer and recording the reasons why people drop out, if they do.


    Donors will receive a quarterly report against targets and the reasons behind any variance. This will include descriptive and financial feedback. We will set up our own blog to capture the ongoing trials and tribulations of the project. We will write an Impact Report which will be widely circulated

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £17,067

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £11,223 Staff resources Staff costs for delivering training, providing specialist / on-going support to advocates and travel
      £1,752 Volunteer expenses Travel and subsistence costs, recruitment of volunteers & computer adaptation fund
      £900 Marketing / training delivery Designing engagement flyer and training delivery
      £3,192 Management and overheads Contribution to overheads and core management costs

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Age UK in-kind support £1,780 Guaranteed
    Community fundraising £1,375 Conditional
  • Background


    East Devon is one of the largest English districts by population, with a total population of 135,636. Over 35% of the population are aged over 60. Of these older people, 17% claim Attendance Allowance and 12% claim Pension Credit. There are some 700 registered carers covering the area. The area experiences hidden pockets of deprivation, poor infrastructure and small, sparsely distributed populations.


    This project is aimed at older carers who are not able to take advantage of social support networks. We know this is particularly so for male carers. Our Skype advocates will benefit from our training programme, developing their skills, capacity and own social networks. We would engage with 4 carers of dementia sufferers to provide a platform for a focused grant to develop this service. Age UK Devon will trial an innovative approach to delivering information and advice, changing our practice.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Age UK Devon is an active member of Race Online 2012. We have a network of over 150 volunteers and have already identified carers who would benefit through our Carers’ Health and Wellbeing Checks that a member of our staff provides. We would co-develop this service with our Age UK Internet Champion of the Year. Staff regularly work with people who are less able and where English isn’t their first language. We have an established and respected track record in delivering preventative services.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    David Howe

    Our Internet Champion of the Year 2011 and is an IT Volunteer at our centre in Seaton, teaching other people in later life how to use the internet

    Sue Howell-Richardson

    a qualified nurse with other 35 years of patient-contact experience. She set up and managed a county-wide mentoring service, for which we won an award

    Nina Parnell

    coordinates a plethora of volunteer-led projects. A team leader of our Information & Advice Service, she helped older people claim in excess of £3.